From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Shalom Simchon (Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of the State of Israel) (Original language Hebrew)

Madam Chairperson, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the delegation from Israel, allow me too congratulate you, Madam Chairperson, on your appointment at this Summit. We hereby extend our best wishes to all participants.

In addition, we would like to Director-General of FAO and the directorate and staff of the Organization, for their initiative in taking the lead, together with all Member States in this important struggle to eliminate hunger and malnutrition throughout the world.

My fellow delegates, imagine the meaning of one day without food, the suffering, the pain, the frustration and the lack of hope an undernourished person feels. If we multiply this one individual by 800 million, we will have an idea of the number of men, women and children around the globe who go to bed hungry every night. In this context lies the importance of the success of the Organization and its Member nations in bringing to fruition the aims of this Food Summit. All of us gathered here must serve as a mouthpiece and work together, to the best of our ability, on behalf of the disadvantaged population of the world which has not yet gained the basic right to food and a decent diet. We should redouble our efforts in order to reduce the numbers of the hungry, thus meeting the goals set out in the first Food Summit in 1996. A world whose land and water resources supply sufficient food for 5.5 billion people can also produce the food needed to ease the conditions of the 800 million people defined as hungry. The achievement of that goal depends in great measure on our own determination and perseverance.

Israel holds in high regard the activity and mission of FAO. It participates in the worldwide battle to banish hunger. Israel is ready and committed to continue and aid in this struggle to the best of its ability, including the provision of its scientific, training and commercial expertise in order to contribute to improvement and economic growth, particularly for the benefit of those countries hit by hunger and malnutrition, which in many cases are located in arid and semi-arid regions.

In order to fulfil the State of Israel's obligations to develop agriculture and food production in the international community, and especially the developing countries, for several decades we have carried out many assistance activities led by Israeli experts. The activities include many courses and workshops held each year for trainees from developing countries and from countries with economies in transition, in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic.

Thousands of Israelis have been sent on professional missions throughout the developing world. Appropriate agrotechniques have been offered and introduced in the agricultural production process in Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin. Tens of thousands of people have come to Israel to participate in professional training activities in agriculture, while other have taken advantage of the courses and workshops organized for them by Israeli experts in their home countries.

The main subjects in which Israel supplies its training for professional manpower in countries in the aforementioned regions include: irrigation, livestock production under intensive management, the growing and post-harvest care of vegetables and fruits, acquaculture, farm management, grain storage using inexpensive and advanced methods, soil conservation, forestry and agri-business enterprises. At the same time, Israel has established demonstration farms to illustrate the use of advanced agricultural technologies in several countries, including China, India, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The battle to halt the encroachment of the desert is particularly related to the dearth of water, which negatively affects agricultural and economic development. Israel, much of which is desert, has made respectable achievements in exploiting its water potential for agricultural purposes and food production by using advanced irrigation methods. Similar large-scale efforts must be made in arid and semi-arid countries in order to increase and vary sources of water and develop systems of transport. Israel calls upon the developed countries, which have the financial resources, to support and act for the establishment of water projects and the introduction of irrigation systems in the arid and semi-arid developing countries. This effort has a threefold economic, social and political significance, since an increase in the supply of water will lead to a growth in income, reduction of hunger, promotion of peace and economic development.

Likewise, I stress that the group of developed countries consider more seriously, and in greater depth, the support and granting of preferential treatment to the developing countries in matters of international trade within the framework of the WTO.

It is important also to emphasize that the industry of agricultural technology and inputs in Israel has made impressive achievements in our country and other countries, particularly in the fields of irrigation technologies, propagation materials (seeds, seedlings, tissue culture, and so forth), intensive dairy farm technologies, greenhouses and export of agricultural production in the developing countries.

Israel's rich experience in the field of agriculture has been used widely in the last decade to promote the peace process in our region. These activities include the preparation and implementation of programmes in the exchange of know-how between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It is our hope that this cooperation will continue and assist in creating a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Agriculture serves as a bridge for peace in our relations with the Palestinian Authority. Agricultural cooperation and mutual trade continue despite the present conflict. Even during this highly tense period, Palestinian farmers can export their produce, flowers, citrus fruit and strawberries to Europe and to Arab countries.

We have also taken care to maintain mutual trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both for humanitarian reasons in order to supply food to the population not involved in terrorist activities, and to leave open civilian channels which can serve a s a basis for future relations.

We also strictly maintain a joint Israeli-Palestinian liaison office, which handles veterinary and plant protection issues, solves problems that arise in the field, and facilitates the movement of veterinary doctors and agricultural supervisors on the ground. The task force was decided upon in a meeting I held with the holder of the Palestinian agriculture portfolio, Mr Hikmat Ziad, with whom I have excellent professional relations regarding cooperation and monitoring of the situation.

The example of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in agricultural matters opens the door for optimism also in a wider sense, since it gives proof that it is possible to ensure a regular supply of food to the population even in times of conflict. In addition, I believe with all my heart that life will conquer the forces of evil which strew death and destruction, and that agricultural cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians will serve as a stable and broad foundation for future peace.

Madam Chairperson, since its establishment in 1948 and until this very day, the State of Israel has made great advances in its agriculture, mainly due to innovative agricultural research, an active extension and training system, and our skilled farmers. At the same time, we must recall that in the first years after independence, when Israel was still a young and developing country, it enjoyed the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, especially in the mapping of soil and micro-climatic regions. Later, from the late 1950s onwards, Israel began to assist other countries. Over the years, several Israeli experts have joined the ranks of FAO, both at the Headquarters in Rome and in fielding professional missions in all parts of the world.

Like other Member States in FAO, Israel repeats its commitments, made at the first World Food Summit in 1996, to put at the Organization's disposal its expertise in the field of agricultural and rural development, to participate in FAO's efforts to reduce world hunger and malnutrition, and to implement its Plan of Action. Israel also joins in the Organization's call to hasten the necessary steps in order to meet the framework and timetable of this plan.

Thank you for your attention.

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